William Waddell
National Visionary

Born August 1908 in Richmond, VA

Veterinarian, Buffalo Soldier

In addition to being a leader and pioneer in the field of veterinary medicine, William Waddell is one of the oldest living Buffalo Soldiers, an all-black regiment of the U.S. Army.

Waddell was born in 1908 in Richmond, Virginia, where his father worked as a horse driver and his mother as a cook. Many of Waddell’s early experiences pushed him to excel in school and to pursue a career as a veterinarian. As a child, Waddell often rode with his father and helped look after his horse, Charlie. At age 13 his parents sent him to a boarding school in Manassas, Virginia. Living near Washington, DC he had the opportunity to visit Howard University and compete in athletics against high schools in the nation’s capital. As a student in Manassas, he also had the chance to deliver a calf.

Waddell in his
Buffalo Soldier uniform
After earning a degree from Lincoln University, Waddell attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. He received his doctorate in 1935 and became one of the first African Americans to practice veterinary medicine in the United States. Eventually, he also became the first African American veterinarian to practice in the State of West Virginia and the first to become a member of the American Veterinary Medicine Association.

Waddell also served honorably in the military and served as the first African American commissioned member of the Officer Reserve Veterinary Corp. He joined the R.O.T.C. while studying at the University of Pennsylvania, and after graduation was assigned to the 9th Cavalry, stationed at Fort Clark in Bracketville, Texas, where he cared for the fort’s over 8,000 horses. During World War II Waddell served as a veterinary officer in the Army’s 9th Cavalry, 5th Brigade in North Africa and Italy.

After leaving the Army, Waddell joined the faculty at the Tuskegee Institute, where he met his future wife. While at Tuskegee, Waddell worked with famed scientist, George Washington Carver and co-founded the Institute’s School for Veterinary Medicine.

When Waddell left Tuskegee he practiced in Morgantown, West Virginia. He then moved to Fargo, North Dakota, where he supervised the eradication of tuberculosis in cattle in the great Northwest. He received accolades from the governor for his efforts.

Waddell and his late wife, Lottie, retired to Hawaii in the 1970s.


URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/waddellwilliam